Pinnacle's Studio Ultimate 12.0 video-editing software tries to maximize its appeal by adding Blu-ray Disc, Flash video, and direct-to-YouTube support.

Standard-definition video is going the way of the HD DVD player - or is it? TVs have gone high-def in a big way, but YouTube and other online venues continue to serve standard definition.

The previous version of Pinnacle Studio Ultimate let users import footage in the Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD) and High Definition Video (HDV) formats, and create HD DVD discs. Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12.0 drops HD DVD in favour of Blu-ray Disc authoring, with tools that include animated menus.

The basic, £39 version of Pinnacle Studio 12.0 does not support AVCHD or HDV importation; the £69 Plus and £99 Ultimate versions do. Studio performed sluggishly with AVCHD files on both systems that we used with it.

The first Blu-ray discs we created wouldn't play in an older Blu-ray player, but they worked fine in a newer model, the Panasonic DMP-30K. The reason: The newer player recognised discs burned in AVCHD format, whereas the older one didn't; you can, however, change Studio Ultimate's settings to create discs for older models of Blu-ray players.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12.0 lets you export videos directly to YouTube. Studio 11.0 supported Yahoo Video or Pinnacle's own video-sharing site; though you can upload to Yahoo with Studio 12.0, uploading to Pinnacle's site is no longer an option. The YouTube uploads have just one quality setting - which is understandable, since YouTube has a single upload setting.

Once they're uploaded to YouTube, however, you can view clips in "high quality" or "standard quality". We've found that, the higher the quality before we upload videos, the better the YouTube-compressed versions turn out to be. Our best results came when we uploaded a high-quality Flash video to YouTube.

A new feature, Pinnacle Montage, provides 11 themes and 80 templates that you can use to add effects such as menus of moving frames with video, animated text, and graphics. Some of the Montage options are snazzy, but few of them allow any customisation. For example, you can specify multiple moving frames, but you can't alter the frames' dimensions, and you can't adjust how quickly they appear and disappear.

Three new plug-in packages included with Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12.0 confer varying benefits. The proDAD VitaScene plug-in contains a tonne of neat transitions - blurs, spins, and so on - along with at least as many effects as the main Studio application has.

NEXT PAGE: plug-ins, stability, and our expert verdict > >

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